Dead Space 3 Preview
Isaac Clarke returns to fight the Necromorph outbreak in Dead Space 3 but this time round, he’s bought a friend. Ahead of the official February 7th launch, Electronic Arts have released a Dead Space 3 demo for anyone eager to sample Visceral Games latest descent into horrific madness.
Guaranteed to send chills down your spine, the Dead Space 3 demo is set upon the frozen planet of Tau Volantis where Isaac Clarke awakens suspended upside-down, reminiscent of Luke Skywalker from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. It’s here we get our first glimpse of Isaac, worse for wear since we last saw him in Dead Space 2 and exhausted from his constant alien encounters. Captured in superb visual clarity, Dead Space 3 is a step in the right direction from the previous entries in the series. Snow covered mountain trails come alive as foot steps are imprinted into the snowy walking path with each tentative step. Effective use of lighting soaks the environment with an orange hue as sunlight blends seemingly with the surrounds.
Familiar Necromorphs have been expanded upon with new alien menaces throwing themselves into the scrum. Infused together with all manners of creepy crawlers more insect than humanoid, the diversity of confrontations on offer in this third expedition presents plenty of hostiles to point your cross-hair at.
Devout Unitology believers, or rather cultists make an appearance for the first time in the series, expressing their devotion to the Markers channelled as anger and hostility towards our unfortunate heroes. A single slice or shot at these infected beings isn’t enough to down them in most cases, as they spawn creepy as hell tentacles from cut torsos and limbs. Lumbering closer, each encounter is heart-pounding and horrific, resembling design cues from the Resident Evil series.
Luckily for Isaac and John, they have new abilities to add to their repertoire. Now able to press up against objects to duck and cover, the ensuing onslaught of multiple enemies at once becomes quite manageable. Don’t get too complacent as cover isn’t an impenetrable barrier. The necromorphs are intelligent, flanking and killing you in one fell swoop if you’re not careful. Action-orientation doesn’t stop there with the ability to roll thrown in as well. Quickly move between cover or out of harm’s way. Described as ‘organic’ by the developers, I struggled with the cover system, at times becoming unresponsive as I desperately tried to cling to each available cover block. I’m not 100% sure if the system is flawed or if I’m executing it all wrong but it did create some very tense moments.
The humble Bench makes a return and it too has been enhanced and improved. Providing a workstation for weapon assembly, players can now incorporate collected parts into creating or customising their hand-held firepower. Build your own unique creations or use collected blueprints to build something more in line with convention. During the demo, I managed to construct a two-handed electric-charged slicing device by sticking together every usable part I could lay my hands on.
Although powerful, the ammunition was fairly limited and the reload time took considerably long. These are the issues that need to be addressed when concocting your ultimate weapon, leading to plentiful possibilities, potential and catered experience for each individual player. As the demo is just a sample, we don’t get quite the selection of options to build and create (no blueprints to try unfortunately), but certainly is a nice taste of what’s ahead.
Apart from the graphical enhancements, Isaac is now supported with the addition of new cast member Sergeant John Carver. More complex than a re-imagined Isaac Clarke, Carver adds to the co-op dynamic by bringing his own unique skillsets to the tag-team combo to create an engrossing two-player experience. Visceral Games makes creative use of our new accomplice, crafting a different experience depending on whether or not a player chooses to go solo or team together with another active player. Play with someone else locally or jump online where we get to try something different to the solo narrative. Dialogue is tweaked, Quick-Time Events (QTEs) differ and the story-telling taking on a slightly different twist, although not profoundly altered by any means. Small, simple attention to detail will have players re-visiting on their own and with someone else, particularly if you’re after the complete Dead Space 3 experience.
Visceral haven’t lost touch with their survival-horror roots as Dead Space 3 demonstrates finely choreographed suspense sequences that’ll leave you with an elevated heart-rate, particularly if you’re playing alone in a dimly-lit room. Without giving too much away, the boss encounters I witnessed are larger than life and there is an undeniable sense of “What the hell do I do now?” lingering in the mind at first glimpse.
Dead Space 3 is an intriguing beast. Some devoted fans love the series, other gamers are lukewarm towards it. Before I had a chance to delve into it once more, I wasn’t sure which category I fell into but after my encounter with the Necromorphs the third time through, I have a firm appreciation of what Visceral Games have accomplished here. If you haven’t had a chance to sample it yet, I urge you to download the readily available demo and take Isaac out for a test spin. Despite how scary the twists and turns lurking around the corner is at times, this is a brand of horror you’ll want to experience, maybe even re-live a few times through.